Lucky #10

Lucky in Action In Vegas Continued… 

by: Andrew Monstis

Andrew Monstis

…………….We snoozed, watched some NBA Basketball on TV and had some “quark” and crackers in the room for a couple of hours and then returned to the action. There were new faces in the room gambling. Lucky was right. If he got action this way, very few people would remember him. I found a couple of folding chairs along the wall for us, and right away a kid came along and asked to gamble cheap. I said no thanks and Lucky shook his head and said, “No, maybe later. I don’t want to get in over my head.” He hooked the kid by the extra comment.

The kid had a high-pitched laugh, “Yeah, you would lose, old man. I’m pretty good. You want none of me” How arrogant I thought!!

Lucky tilted his head up at the kid and asked him if he played chess. The kid chomped his gum, eyes roving around the room restlessly.

“I am here to play pool, old man. Not some other game”

“Well, maybe I’ll play you later on,” Lucky said. “I might learn a thing or two from you.”

We watched the room action for a few minutes and here came the kid again, back after catching no fish to try Lucky again. Lucky was patient and declined politely. He knew that when they played they would play under Lucky’s conditions. An older guy listening nearby leaned over and said, “Say, fella, I saw you playing in here earlier. How’d you come out?”

“Oh, it was okay,” said Lucky, “I got lucky and won a few games.”

The kid interrupted, “Come on, old man, what are you here for? I’ll play you for a few bucks. Fifty a game, that’s cheap.” He tried a little intimidation, “What, are you afraid of me?”

“Chess?” Lucky queried.

“Pool,” the kid said, and muttered something under his breath.

Lucky stroked his beard and his mustache and finally said, “Oh, all right. That’s cheap enough.”

So I went over and got my cue again, while the kid fooled around, chopping the cue ball with his hand, back spinning it all over the table. As I handed the cue to Lucky, he whispered to me, “Ok, here’s where I have to beat him flat out to take the cash, whereas in a set I could lose a few games and still win the money. Don’t leave. This will be quick.”

This was going to be interesting. The kid, just happy to be playing somebody, finally, was practically bouncing from one foot to the other, nervous energy crackling. “C’mon, let’s flip,” he urged.

Lucky won the flip. They agreed to pay on every four games. The kid racked the balls and you could see he was acting as if he racked tight. Now Lucky knows better than most that there is no perfect rack. He takes a look at the rack, but only to see how the balls lie, so he knows how to break them. He broke and made the nine.

The kid racked about the same way again. Lucky broke, the nine going into the same pocket as before. I could see the smirk on the young hustler’s face as he racked yet again. Lucky took a look at the rack but said nothing, and returned to break. Most players will change something about the rack to keep the nine from going in again, and this rack was no exception. Lucky broke and pocketed the nine — in a different pocket. The kid slammed the rack onto the table, muttering something about ‘lucky b*****d.’

Lucky broke game four and I could hear a different cracking sound off this break. The nine disappeared in the headstrong right corner pocket. I saw the kid’s eyes burning, but he only clenched his jaws as he handed over $200 to Lucky.

“Again?” Lucky inquired politely. With only four people, including myself, watching the match, Lucky got loose and put another four nine balls down quick. The kid didn’t know what to do, he was so angry, and was unable to speak. Lucky took the proffered $200 and shook his head, “Eight nine-ball breaks! Son, I love your racks. That was something!”

I could hear the kid saying, as he slammed his cue case together, “Ah, the old fart (nicer word than he really used) was just lucky. He couldn’t even play. Lucked in the nine on the break a few times.”

Lucky walked over to where I was sitting. He had kind of a strange look to him. He said the next strategy was going to be different. He wanted to get everyone lined up to play like he had back in his hometown that time I first met him there. I wondered how he planned on accomplishing that in here.

He said, “Watch,” and went straight over to a small crowd watching a match and tapped one person on the shoulder. “Play cheap? Fifty a game?”

“Ok!” exclaimed the stranger, Mexican looking heavy set guy beer in one hand and cue in the other with a blue sun hat. Named Sebastian. He had his cue off his shoulder and out of the case before Lucky finished saying the words, “Fifty a game.” I settled back, expecting to be here for a while. Lucky then proceeded to lose game after game after game. He lost $1,000 so quick it made my head spin.

I sat there, stunned. What was happening? I never saw him lose this kind of money before. And then, on top of that, he up and said, “I quit, for now.” I couldn’t believe my ears! I never saw this coming.

The player who took Lucky’s money, grinning from ear to ear, bragged to his buddies and onlookers, and then turned back to Lucky, saying, “Maybe we can play some more later.”

Lucky, normally a very polite and laid back person, ground his teeth, flexed his hands, and, in general, looked pretty darned upset. “Look, mister, I have plenty of money. You tell me where and when. You won’t win next time.”

He yanked out his bankroll and I about had a heart attack. He flashed it under the guy’s nose and exclaimed, “See? Just so’s you don’t think I’m kidding you.”

At that point I grabbed Lucky by the arm and steered him away, where I said, “What the hell are you doing? You have got to be out of your mind!”

Lucky shrugged off my hand with an angry look. “I’ll play anyone in here for $500 a game, right now!” he said loudly. I regained my grip on Lucky’s arm, my cue, and walked Lucky out the door. A few people were barking at Lucky to play them as I hurried him out.

Needless to say, I was puzzled by how Lucky was operating. This was not the Lucky I knew, the gentleman pool player, the class act. I was just about to say something to him, when he calmly turned to me and said, “Everyone knows me now. When you’re in the fish tank you have to act like the other fish sometimes.”

He waved his arm at a taxi. “Where do you want to eat?”

We rode a short distance to a casino that offered a great all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. Over lobster and crab legs and an array of exotic seafood, Lucky said that he was going to play only sets for high money from now on, unless one game was $500 or better. I said nothing, focusing instead on a great dinner.

Finally, over coffee and dessert, I said, “Look, Lucky, I don’t know where to start, exactly, but I don’t think I can…”

“Son,” he said, “Let me explain something to you before you go wasting all that energy you need to digest what you just ate. Now, normally, you would not see me doing anything like what I just did today, would you?”

“No, I wouldn’t,” I said. “I know you are better than that.”

“Well, consider this. This place we are at, this amateur event, have you ever seen such a bunch of wannabe’s in all your life? It would  take me a long time to find the high stakes games if I didn’t make some noise. Shake the trees to see what falls out. You know I don’t have that kind of time. Let me tell you about fish, Drew. Small fish lose their lives to bigger fish and those fish lose theirs to even bigger fish. And it’s always the big fish you want to catch. And if you’re in a hurry — well, you’ve heard of using dynamite? Not exactly a sporting move, but it does the job quickly — stuns them all and brings them to the surface of the water.”

Lucky smiled, with a little glint in his eye, and stabbed into another scallop. “There are times when you just have to create your own show and throw in some dynamite. You might say I just issued an invitation. Great food! I’m going for seconds on these scallops – maybe some more lobster, too. You coming?”

Went down to the action room in the Riviera, Sebastian Franco, Charlie Peterson, Ronnie Allen, Tony Banks, John Evans, King Kong and Bucktooth All was barking up a storm But Bucktooth was trying to get Shane in a game with Pots and Pans who some think can’t play. Shane just won the US Open10 ball Championship. The game they were trying to get were they both played one handed. Shane had to play left handed $2000 a game. Boy there was barking. After saying how unreasonable the game was Shane disappeared only to re-emerged 10 minutes later with his cue. It looked as if the game was on. Bucktooth had wrenched up the heat wanting to bet more. Shane was trying to get a different game with Bucktooth as he knew Pots and Pans could still play some even at his age.

We have a couple more days at the event. We heard there were a group of Taiwanese players playing and beating everyone they have booked no losers. They always pool their money every time they are all are in on every match. Heard even Atwell lost to one of them. I know Lucky has a plan………more on Vegas next issue .

The Road Dogs

LUCKY – Part 8

Andrew Monstis

Well, somewhere along the long road of life, I’ve finally found time to do more follow-up on the U.S. Bar Table Championships.  But Reno…wow.  The smoke at the Sands was atrocious. It sucked into the playing room like a fast-flowing creek. Lucky started hacking every time he went into the tournament room.  He was completely bummed out.  His old beat up face looked like he’d lost his best friend.  He mentioned a conversation with Stevie Moore where he found out that Stevie quit several months ago and said it was one of the best decisions of his life.  We’re talking about the reason Lucky quit playing after all those years!  It was the smoke and it affected his health! I know, I know, those of you who smoke are heaving big sighs of smoke and disgust reading this, but thankfully, more and more of you have been able to actually quit and know the joy of breathing again.

But outside of that, the tournament seemed like it was run well. Bad Boys Productions has a pretty good crew and they got on it.

So, while the smoke kept Lucky away from one of his favorite pool events in the country and sulking in his room most of the time, flipping channels and trying to find old westerns to watch, it didn’t keep us from going down to the Pneumatic Diner.  This is a very cool out-of-the-way vegetarian eatery he turned me on to.  Who would have thought that old cowboy could rub shoulders with the long hairs? Oh, wait, he likes me.  Well, it was real food and it tasted great — and only blocks from the Sands. Best damn food on the whole trip.

So I was left to my own devices at the event.  I got to see the young crop of good new players showing some metal… like John Morra, Mitch Ellerman, and Adam Smith… and I wasn’t disappointed watching established players like Steve Moore, Stan Tourangeau and Glenn Atwell, though Glenn’s patina seemed a little worn this time around. Maybe it was the altitude and snow. Reno is up there in elevation about 4400 ft. And, it was cold and never over 33 degrees.

Vivian Villarreal played great. Lucky has been keeping one eye on the women… playing, that is. He says some of them are getting consistently closer to the men’s skill levels these days.  Pretty amazing to hear that old backroads gentleman say with confidence that someday soon the gender barrier could just disappear into the sunset.

Lucky said he snuck in and watched Washington’s Ivan Doty play some. I had to chew him out, but I understood.  Ivan, it turned out, did not have any expectation, just came to play vacation-style pool. He said he surprised himself in the 8-ball event, ending up beating several top players.  Even with his nerves over the top, he crushed Stevie Moore, one of the favorites to win the event. Lucky shared with me how impressed he was with this future grand master. “You’re never too old to play good pool,” Lucky said he told Ivan. Oh, and he said they drink the same beer, too.  Great minds, great taste.

Pat Schumacher played well, considering his lack of swing time after coming back from a bad motorcycle accident a couple years ago that had him in the hospital for two months, wondering if he’d ever play pool again, His ‘second coming’ was a bright light for him, All he needed to complete his long-mustached Yosemite Sam look was a Hoss Cartwright Hat.  Lucky may have felt some kinship with Pat, because once again, he’d slipped in unbeknownst to me and had been watching him play.  He’d even offered him some breaking tips — lucky for Pat, who immediately put them into practice and got some instant gratification. He was breaking great and making a ball every time.  Back in Lucky’s room after the event, we were sitting around eating Diner leftovers, and he told me if Pat could have matched that with some run outs a few more times at the end like he did in the beginning, he would have won the whole thing.

In between slices of pesto spinach and feta pizza and cranberry-pistachio yogurt salad (unbelievably delicious), Lucky revealed more about who else he saw when he snuck in behind my back. He mentioned Barbara McDonald — said in his opinion she was one of the best tournament direction helpers Jay Helfert or Reno’s events had ever seen – said he would be hard pressed to remember anyone over the years so pleasant and professional. He said he saw Henry Dorsey, who was a great pool hustler in the 80’s.  He’d played “Walt” — as he was called in those days — and said Walt was always good for a few dollars every time. Every time. He was trying to be known as one-pocket Dorsey and lost a few bucks to the Monk down at the pool room.  I told him “The Lion Slayer” Kings Santy beat Alex Pagulayan and had progressed into a pretty good player. I think I’ll have to drive Lucky to Boise sometime so he can play him some. I mentioned Phil Boucher from Montana as the gentleman of the tournament. Sure enough, Lucky said he knew Phil’s brother and played him at Four Bears in North Dakota.

Speaking of action – outside of Lucky beating that kid from the east coast (last issue), during the week-long event, there usually is a ton of action in the practice room, but for some reason, not this year. Lucky was “flabbergasted,” as he called it, by the lack of action and lack of stake horses.  He said he saw only a few 5/20 dollar games, “Hardly enough to spit at,” he said. But, he said, the local pool room had drawn most of the action – how he knew that I didn’t even ask. Said Boy George was stiffing everyone who didn’t know better and rumor had it that after a visit from a couple of guys to give him a “tune up,” Boy George paid off.

So anyway, Lucky had marked Warren Kiamco, the all-around winner, to play him after the tournament. I was with him when he corralled him and his road buddy during 9-ball and asked him if he wanted to play. Warren and his Filipino buddy had a short discussion in Tagalog and then Warren said, “Ok! Play for $500 a set.” Lucky later told me they were saying they should be able to get about five or six sets out of him before he gave up. (He never fails to surprise me.)

Lucky, of course, shoving his old hands into his worn pants pockets, said, “Well, I reckon that’ll be ok, but I just want to play you.  You’re a mighty fine player.”

Warren looked at his road partner and laughed. “Ok, we will play,” he said.

So Lucky thought he had a second bit of action to look forward to at the end of the tournament. It turned out he hunted for Warren after 8-ball finals, but came up empty.  Kiamco had disappeared without a word. Maybe he thought the old man Lucky couldn’t possibly be serious.  Or, maybe Warren didn’t have the money to play. Lucky said, whatever, it happens… but he just might show up one day where Warren plays to see if he’d still like to knock balls around.

We threw all our junk in the trunk and left Reno the next morning.  It was 9 degrees. That would be c-c-cold.

Next month:  I brought Lucky back to Oregon, since I was headed over to the biggest amateur regional event in the country right after the Reno event.  Lucky thought he’d like to take a look at some of the Northwest players and see who was coming out of that bunch. On the drive up, we munched on chili relleno casserole we got to go from the Pneumatic Diner.  Good stuff. I got him an adjoining room at Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City where the Western BCA event is held twice a year, and we turned in for a good night’s sleep before the action began the next day.